Urban Planning

Urban Planning

Urban planning is an interdisciplinary field. Architecture, law, engineering, politics, sociology, cartography, statistics, and communications are some of the subjects planners must be familliar with. Furthermore, people with urban planning backgrounds work for municipalities, the private sector, and nonprofits.

These are a few subtopics of urban planning that interest me. At the end of each section is a link to a page with examples of my coursework that incorporates each subject. Jump to:

I also recommend visiting the urban planning resources page, which lists tools, articles, data sources, and more.

Historic Preservation

Traditionally preservation has been used as a way to promote culture, history, and to distinguish one place from another... but preservation also has other benefits. Economic development, community development, and sustainability can all be enhanced by identifying & improving an area's existing assets.

Planners have the power to encourage and enforce preservation-related policies through overlay zoning, tax incentives, and sometimes by establishing partner organizations like Main Street Programs. Main Street Programs help revive underutilized downtowns and help local businesses thrive. As Jane Jacobs pointed out, new buildings have higher rents than older buildings because of construction costs, so older buildings have great potential as business incubators and affordable housing. Not only is new construction (and demolition of whatever may be on site) often more expensive than renovation or adaptive reuse, but it is usually less sustainable; even new LEED certified buildings must operate for decades to surpass the energy saved by re-using an older building because the embodied energy within an existing building is significant.

Browse examples of my work that use historic preservation.


Environmental sustainability enhances (and sometimes motivates) many plans. Preservation is one way to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The greenest building is the one that already exists because of the building's embodied energy, meaning that raw materials have already been shipped to the site and then assembled into a working structure; demolishing this structure so that new materials can be shipped and then assembled on-site a second time counteracts even the energy that might be saved by the operating costs of the new structure (even if it is LEED certified).

Environmental sustainability is also achieved in other ways; sustainable transportation plans may include stormwater management techniques like bioswales and permeable pavers or promote biking and/or public transit, while sustainable land use plans may encourage density in TOD (transit oriented developments) or employ urban growth boundaries.

Economic sustainability is critical to the implementation of plans, if a project has no ROI (return on investment) private developers will not begin it. The economic viability of plans can be mitigated with grants and tax breaks, or by having the project managed by the government or a non-profit, but even these scenarios are not optimal. No matter who is spearheading a project, the optimal outcome is one where the ROI is positive because utility and versatility have been adequately planned.

Read more about planning for sustainability in my work.

Affordable Housing

Trickle-down economics doesn't work. Similarly, trickle-down urbanism doesn't improve the lives of the most vulnerable, so more direct methods must be employed to enact positive change. Affordable housing is a social justice issue, and with the widening income gap this type of planning is still desperately needed, especially as failed large mid-century housing projects are not being replaced as quickly as they are demolished.

NIMBY, segregation, concentrations of poverty, education, gentrification, and crime are all subjects that complicate how affordable projects are perceived and implemented.

Learn more about what affordable housing is on the US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) website, and see examples of my work relating to affordable housing.

Active Transportation

Walking, biking, and public transportation are critical to creating vibrant and healthy neighborhoods. Biking and walking provide much-needed forms of exercise that don't pollute or wear out roads like cars. Trains, streetcars, buses, and BRT (bus rapid transit) can provide low-cost transportation and serve diverse and widespread areas.

These low and no-cost transportation options enhance the quality of life of everyone, especially youth, seniors, and others who cannot drive. A successful transportation network is not one where the poor drive, but one where the wealthy choose active transportation. Complete streets interventions including road diets, bike lanes, bus lanes, full-spectrum lighting, and ADA-compliant sidewalks make streets safer, but also transform streets into destinations -- not just corridors.

See examples of my work that promote active transportation.

Digital Divide

In our information age, big data and the internet are changing the interactions between governments and citizens, and computers are a cornerstone of education and employment. It is for these reasons that the digital divide -- the inadequate access marginalized populations have to technology -- must be studied and alleviated. The social and economic mobility of those living in poverty, with disabilities, who are non-English speakers, and the elderly depends on their ability to access and use computers, the internet, and cell phones.

Learn more about the digital divide by viewing my work.